ca. 150 AD


  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. View from the south-east.
  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. View from the east.
  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. View from the north-east.
  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. View from the north-west.
  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. View from the west.
  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. View from the south.
  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. Topographical overview.
  • The Forum in ca. 150 AD. View from above.

While the Flavians as a new ruling dynasty had impressively left their mark on the physiognomy of the Forum Romanum (see Flavian), things have quietened down on the Forum under the reign of the following dynasty, the so-called “Adoptive Emperors” or Nerva-Antonine Dynasty. During the hundred years of their reign, starting with Emperor Nerva coming into power in 96 A.D. and continuing on under the rule of Emperor Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius up until the death of the last Antonine Emperor Commodus in 192 A.D. – a period, in which the Roman Empire consolidated their position in domestic and foreign affairs and experienced a time of economic and cultural prosperity -, interestingly only very small architectural changes were made to the Forum.

Evidently, the Adoptive Emperors were only concerned with the Forum in part and this becomes clear, when one looks at their construction policy. All the more fervently they were invested in other parts of the city of Rome: They created spectacular new spaces with a sophisticated architecture, which symbolised the stellar position and unique power of the new Emperors. Particular attention was given to the areas of the Imperial fora, which lay adjacent to the old Forum (especially costly was the decoration of the monumental Trajan’s Forum) and the Campus Martius (with buildings for the Imperial cult and representation: Pantheon, Temple of Hadrian, Temple of Marcus Aurelius etc.); furthermore, a colossal temple for Venus and Roma was built on the Velia under Hadrian and a massive public thermal bath on the Oppius under Trajan. In light of these construction projects the restraint that the Adoptive Emperors exercised concerning the old Forum becomes all the more evident.

The architectural changes on the Forum can be enumerated quickly: Under Nerva the colossal equestrian statue of the last Flavian Emperor Domitian (Equus Domitiani) was torn down. Under Trajan (perhaps also under Hadrian) additional alterations were made at the Porticus deorum consentium; these alterations are still situated within the context of the preceding Flavian construction project (together with the rebuilding of Temple of Vespasian), which was thus consequently finished. Also under the rule of Trajan or Hadrian a structure (building or monument), which has not yet been identified, was decorated with a set of marble reliefs (so-called “Anaglypha Traiani / Hadriani”) – whether an already existing structure was merely extended or an entirely new building was erected, is not clear at the moment.

The only really remarkable structure that was erected under the reign of the Adoptive Emperors on the Forum was a temple that Emperor Antoninus Pius had built for himself and his wife Faustina, that died young. It was this temple, that kept the cult of this deified Imperial couple going. It is telling that the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina is also a building which – strictly speaking – did not stand on the Forum any more. Merely its massive architecture towered over the buildings that were situated next to it on the Forum square (Temple of Caesar, Basilica Paulli), so that the Temple of Antoninus Pius still exerted its influence on the Forum.

It is hard to tell, why the Adoptive Emperors did not want to represent themselves more fully through construction projects and monuments on the Forum. Naturally one might have perceived the Forum, at least during the reign of the Adoptive Emperors, as an architecturally “saturated” space, because of major preceding construction changes that were made under Augustus and after him the Flavians (see Augustan II, Flavian). However, this argument concerning high capacity is rarely a good argument within the context of Imperial construction policy: It was often the case that prominent buildings were restored not because of some architectural deficit, but on the ground that a political figure was interested in establishing his presence within the physiognomy of the Forum (this was impressively demonstrated once again by the subsequent Severan Dynasty, see Severan). Hence, it is more plausible to assume that the Forum was seen – based on the preceding construction activities – as a fully occupied and narrow space, which was no longer suited to the needs of the rulers, who were interested in an impressive Imperial representation and had thus created spaces in other urban areas (Imperial fora, sites for the Imperial cult on the Campus Martius), which were always available to them.

It is revealing that Antoninus Pius was the only one who sought proximity to the Forum and thus the dialogue with the past that was represented there: By erecting the temple that was dedicated to his cult (after his deification) and his deified wife, he responded directly to the Temple of Caesar and the Temple of Vespasian. The import of this decision becomes clear, if on considers the fact that Antoninus Pius, when choosing the location of his temple, did not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Hadrian, who had rediscovered and reorganised the middle section of the Campus Martius as a space of Imperial representation – especially in terms of the consecration and Imperial cult of the deified Emperors. The fact that Antoninus Pius did not follow Hadrian in this, shows markedly, that he deemed the Forum Romanum to be an attractive place for Imperial representation. At the same time the construction of the temple – it was pushed off in to the second row (so to speak) and closely based on the actual Forum architecture – reveals that it was becoming increasingly difficult to erect more monumental representational structures directly on the Forum without tearing down existing buildings. Consequently, Marcus Aurelius had his temple built on the Campus Martius again: Thus the solution that Antoninus Pius had adopted on the Forum did not seem to have been convincing.

Whatever the reasons were that drove the Adoptive Emperors to abstain from interfering with the architecture of the Forum, the consequences for the Forum Romanum were invariably the same: The Forum started to “grow old” as an urban space. While the new Emperors used other parts of Rome to construct impressive buildings and architectural spaces, compliant with contemporary taste, the political present and its representation was fading from the Forum more and more quickly. It was the past, the time of Augustus and the Julii as well as of the Flavians, that was represented there all the more impressively by the different buildings and monuments still standing on the Forum. Thus the past, which was still visible within the Forum’s architecture, and the present, which was part of everyday commotion, created a tension on the Forum and engaged in a new and heated dialogue.

The fact that the Forum would by no means lose its appeal in subsequent times and become a place of Imperial representation again (indeed, that its appeal would be raised due to the new opportunity to establish a dialogue with the highly visible past), is shown by the next chapter in the history of the Forum: Under the Severan Dynasty the Forum reawakened and experienced the completion of monumental construction projects and presence of the ruling dynasty (see Severan).



Printed Version

Cited as: Muth, Susanne. „Antonine“, digitales forum romanum, (downloaded on the day/month/year)

Selected Bibliography

C. Corradetti, Architettura templare. Tipologia, decorazione e impiego die marmi nella Roma del II secolo, in: E. La Rocca u. C. Parisi Presicce (Hrsg.), I giorni di Roma: L’età dell’equilibrio (Roma 2012) 45-51, bes. 50.

K. St. Freyberger, Das Forum Romanum. Spiegel der Stadtgeschichte des antiken Rom (Mainz 2009) 90-92.

T. Hölscher, Das Forum Romanum, die monumentale Geschichte Roms, in: E. Stein-Hölkeskamp – K.J. Hölkeskamp (Hrsg.), Erinnerungsorte der Antike. Die römische Welt (München 2006) 100-122, bes. 117.

F. Kolb, Rom. Die Geschichte der Stadt in der Antike (München 1995) 381, 385.

S. Muth, Der Dialog von Gegenwart und Vergangenheit am Forum Romanum in Rom – oder: wie spätantik ist das spätantike Forum?, in: Therese Fuhrer (Hrsg.), Rom und Mailand in der Spätantike : Die Repräsentation des städtischen Raumes in Literatur, Architektur und Kunst. Tagung Berlin 7.-9. Mai 2009 (2012) 263-282, bes. 274-275.

D. Palombi, Da Traiano a Marco Aurelio: La belle époque di Roma imperiale, in: E. La Rocca u. C. Parisi Presicce (Hrsg.), I giorni di Roma: L’età dell’equilibrio (Roma 2012) 35-43, bes. 38, 40, 42

St. Tortorella, Monumenti statali fra Traiano e Marco Aurelio, in: E. La Rocca u. C. Parisi Presicce (Hrsg.), I giorni di Roma: L’età dell’equilibrio (Roma 2012) 53-59, bes. 56-58.

P. Zanker, Forum Romanum. Die Neugestaltung durch Augustus (Tübingen 1972) 27.